To My Last Breath

by Jason Overman

For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s (Romans 14:8).

My panting precedes me. The air is cold as I walk this morning. It stings my lungs as I draw it in deep. I push it out in a rush of frigid fog. For a second, it leads the way and then quickly dissipates. Inhale, exhale; inhale again. Each billow of breath visibly, rhythmically marks the pace of my quick step.

A single breath! What a fragile, tenuous wisp for life to hang upon. I used to take it for granted: breathing, breath. I was much younger then, and things so slight and silent generally escaped my notice. Now I walk in wonder at such a simple, marvelous gift.

Life has a way of reminding you. The soft wheeze of my wife as she sleeps, her asthma present but managed. The heavy panting of my dad as he moves from his hospital bed to a chair nearby, recovering from a surprise blood clot in his lungs. And the stinging air of this cold morning as I walk, a repetitive cough of cloud going before me. God is good. I am aware.

Each breath I take witnesses to the gift of life and the inescapability of death.
I think of Adam at the beginning: a first gasp, inhaling, now a living soul by God’s Breath. I think of Jesus at the other end of the Bible — His last gasp from a cruel cross, exhaling, giving up the ghost for our sakes, redeeming our life and each breath of it. The extinguishing of His breath, and breathing again in resurrection life, gives eternal weight to our own.

Life and death, inhale and exhale — over and over. In Christ this transient yet steady cycle invites me to live and die well by living and dying moment by moment. “I die every day!” Paul can say, because of Jesus: “he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (1 Corinthians 15:31; 2 Corinthians 5:15).

My step slows as I come to the end of my walk. I catch my breath. And will I accept this invitation? I look back. I have accepted it. I’ve accepted Jesus, the Breath of Life. My life is His. I know this, but do I follow through? My panting slows. The invitation does not come but once; it is made, accepted, moment-by-moment and decision-by-decision. Each breath, each step, it is the life of faith that carries me onward, day by day, in and to my Savior by His Holy Spirit. His Breath.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).

May I live and die well by glorifying Christ with each breath I take until my last. May we all.

Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version.